Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Veterans fight back against the marketing enemy at the gates

Veterans respond to the call for the public to thank them for their service.

Photo: DFAT/ Flickr
Photo: DFAT/ Flickr

A few weeks ago, when I heard about the proposal to encourage people to thank veterans for their service, I was moved to put my “veteran” hat on (something I rarely do) and write a strong riposte: "Would You Like thanks With That?". Then the farcical announcement by Virgin Australia hit the headlines and my counter-cultural thoughts gained some momentum. But, as they say, the dogs barked and the media caravan moved on.

I am a little embarrassed and often cringe within when a total stranger ‘thanks me for my service’. They probably mean well, but it is not how I see my circumstance.

But before we put the veteran cue in the rack until Anzac Day demands the next bout of navel-gazing, I thought I would share with you some unsolicited feedback I received via a range of social media. I must admit I was expecting a bit of pushback, but I was surprised at how much support I got from a range of veterans new and old, some of whom I knew, most of whom I didn’t. Second-hand reports also arrived that my piece had been approvingly shared on some veterans' online forums.

There was one Australian-based writer who disagreed and someone else via Twitter, so I make no claims as to the universality of my view within the veteran community (it is a broad church).

So, in a completely unscientific way, I will simply post some of the supportive comments for readers (and hopefully some marketing people, or even politicians and their staffers) to absorb.

From three Vietnam veterans:

“Now the mushrooming growth of memorials, museums and events is (for me) slightly embarrassing.”

“I agree with your views - and have passed the article to 40+ veteran colleagues.”

“I concur entirely with your sentiments and feel that this country is starting to go down the US line of ‘platitudes and flag-waving’ for the sake of it…our way to is not to display overt patriotism, but just to ‘get on with it.’ I am a little embarrassed and often cringe within when a total stranger ‘thanks me for my service.’ They probably mean well, but it is not how I see my circumstance. I thank Australia for letting me have the privilege of serving. It has been an adventure and a life experience. I certainly do not need any further recognition, entitlement/s, ‘baubles or bangles,’ or discounts at the local shopping centre, nor do I want to be announced over the PA or given priority seating/boarding on aircraft.” 

From a US veteran:

I couldn’t agree with you more. You are absolutely correct. I have privately cringed on many occasions when being ‘thanked’ for my military service…It was very refreshing to see your opinion in print, on such a public forum. And, to know that it isn’t just myself and a handful of others who served in a military uniform, who question the wisdom of this.

From a range of more contemporary Australian veterans:

“I have a sense of disquiet around being thanked for my service. This feeling was profound, when (details redacted) said ‘thank you for your service’. It left me feeling awkward, uncomfortable…I find people holding my membership of the (service redacted) in more esteem than I feel it deserves.”

“I have been worried about the same risk. As a UK playwright once said, if you don’t want to investigate and truly understand something cloak it in myth.”

“Thanks for making the effort to write this ‘alternative’ view which badly needs to be shared. The ‘heroism’ focus is so misleading – and completely blind to the quiet, uncelebrated, backroom heroics going on …”

“I think your idea of peak veteran is a good one…I don’t think military service should be placed beyond or above the service expressed by others such as police fire and ambulance.”

“… seriously overdue article on ‘peak veteran’ the other day … The Virgin Airline announcement today was just the dizzy end for me.”

“Great article on Peak Veteran. I too have veteran fatigue and find much out there cringeworthy.”

“You expressed every sentiment I feel! I could not have put it better. I too feel incredibly grateful that I have been given the opportunity to serve my country. I believe there are others in the community who deserve greater recognition than veterans”

You may also be interested in